When I was young simplicity was easier. It wasn’t that I did not want or covet that which my friends had. Simplicity was easier because there seem to be less to want.
That being said there was one thing, as I got older, that I came to desire – nice clothes. The reason was that I wore my share of hand-me-down clothes. So, when kids at school had clothes from upscale stores, I envied them.
When I got older and was a DINK (Double Income No Kids) I sought to feed my passion. I decided that it was my turn to own nice clothing, and I did, but only for a short time. Because I learn quickly that happiness was not found in nice suits. I hated wearing a suit. Think of the times that you have seen me in a suit.
What I learned through that experience was happiness wasn’t found in things. Things can lift your spirits for a while, but the deeper joy of life is found in loving and serving God.
The emphasis is upon serving God. Simply leading a simple existence isn’t spiritual. In fact, self-righteousness can be born out of self-denial if is done for your own gain or self-importance. If you live a simple life as a way to make yourself appear holier than another, then it was not done as a spiritual discipline.
Scripture calls us to live our lives unto God and by living our life in service to God by serving our neighbor, we will know joy. The emphasis is upon pleasing God.
God warns against trying to find happiness in material things. You cannot serve God and mammon. This does not make mammon bad, but the worship of mammon is. To covet what our neighbor has is bad, but to take joy in our neighbors success in not. Our joy comes from loving God and neighbor. To love our neighbor is to wish the best for them and to help them as we are able.
Most of us do not live a pure life. We slip into greed all the time. Envy gets the best of us. To help us with this struggle, one might pause and reflect before we think that owning something will fulfill our hopes and dreams.
On my trip to Jerusalem in 2000 our tour guide told us that Bedouins had lived a simple life for decades – until. Until there were satellite television! Why was this so? Once they had a small television and small satellite dish, they experienced television commercials. We lust for that which we can see. As soon as they starting buying stuff, their ability to move around freely got harder and harder.
This is not to say that there were not people of wealth in the Bible. Abraham had a good bit but how he used it mattered. He saw it as something given by God and to be used for God. God was the centered of his concern.
In my older years, I have lost the lust for things as much as I used to have. Don’t get me wrong I do not lead a pure life. But I experience more peace with less. I am beginning to shed things that I thought I would never shed. In all fairness, I think it also goes with aging and children growing up. I might be wrong.
But I have known friends who have lived simpler life styles and devoted themselves to serving God. Their life is not without their struggles but when I speak to them, they are not as weighted down by wants and worries as my friends who are still in want of things.
But as Richard Foster says, it is less about the things and it is more about our love and devotion to God. When we place God first, the other falls in place.